I am David Lester, a graphic designer, illustrator, musician, and graphic novelist. I live in Vancouver, Canada. To contact me about graphic design or illustration work, Mecca Normal shows, lecture presentations, or painting exhibits, please email. Full bio HERE.
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M U S I C:
I am the guitarist in the rock duo Mecca Normal which features Jean Smith on vocals. Mecca Normal have released 12 albums (K Records, Matador Records and Kill Rock Stars). Mecca Normal was named one of 10 famous Canadians you’ve never heard of by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Mecca Normal’s Malachi single (K) was listed as a Best of 2011 by Artforum Magazine (New York). Our album Sitting On Snaps received a 4 star review in Rolling Stone. The latest Mecca Normal album, Empathy for the Evil (M’lady’s Records), was released in the autumn of 2014. It was produced by Kramer. Mecca Normal have played shows with Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Jad Fair, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mirah, Sleater-Kinney, Unwound. Bikini Kill, The Ex, The Fall and Kimya Dawson. Mecca Normal has been cited as an influence on the social movement known as Riot Grrrl. I also make music with experimental bassist Wendy Atkinson in a duo called Horde of Two.
B O O K S:
Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, a graphic novel (Beacon Press, 2021) published with Marcus Rediker and Paul Buhle.
1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike (Between The Lines, 2019) by the Graphic History Collective and David Lester was co-winner of the 2020 CAWLS Book Prize for the best book in Canadian work and labour studies.
The Listener (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011) is a graphic novel that reveals one of the world’s most tragic acts of spin doctoring while weaving a compelling tale of complacency, art, power, and murder. It is a startling little-known story that changed the course of history.
In The Listener, two stories collide: the rise of Hitler and a woman artist searching for meaning in the art of Europe. The Listener was a finalist for a 2012 ForeWord Reviews’ Book Of The Year Award (graphic novel category). The Listener was reviewed in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library School Journal, and Baltimore City Paper etc. I also read from The Listener at the 2012 LitQuake Literary Festival in San Francisco. In 2012, I was awarded a $5,000 grant from the BC Arts Council to write a graphic novel on Emma Goldman.
The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006, Winnipeg) is an illustrated book of statistics that are, on their own, disconnected facts and figures. I make abstract associations and calculations to give readers an emotional impression of poverty and capitalist greed. The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism was required reading for a course at Capilano University (English: Studies in Contemporary Literature). My author royalties have raised over $2,000 for the Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture.
G R A P H I C D E S I G N:
I design book covers, letterhead, posters, brochures, catalogues, CD covers, business cards, buttons, t-shirts, and logos. I created the poster series Inspired Agitators, now archived at The Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. My poster of Malachi Ritschter was displayed at the 2014 Whitney Biennial in New York City. I’ve been art director of BC BookWorld for the past 25 years and have also designed the First Nations’ newspaper Musqueam News, as well as Vancouver Magazine, Latin America Newsletters, Georgia Straight, and Open Road. Talk-Action=0: An Illustrated History of D.O.A. (Arsenal Pulp Press) featured over 40 pieces of my graphic design. My poster of Howard Zinn was named Poster of The Week by The Center For the Study of Political Graphics. My clients have included Mainstage Management, Federation of BC Writers, Touchstone Theatre, Pink Ink Theatre, Playwrights Theatre Festival, Firehall Arts Centre, and Tanya Tagaq. Zines (Booth-Clibborn Editions) featured my design work in a two page spread. I received a West Coast Music Award nomination for album cover design. Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative published my poster of Paul Robeson and my work was included in the punk graphics anthology, Fucked Up Photocopied (Gingko Press).
I L L U S T R A T I O N:
I do a weekly illustration, with text by Mecca Normal’s Jean Smith, for Magnet Magazine. My work has appeared in Mungbeing, West Coast Line, Z Magazine, Globe and Mail, Geist, San Diego Reader, Bananafish, The Literary Review of Canada, Celebrate People’s History! The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (The Feminist Press), Warburger (Stripburger), Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today (PM Press), and Reproduce and Revolt: A Graphic Toolbox for the 21st Century Activist (Soft Skull Press). I’m the illustrator / writer of the t-shirt Actually, I like crap.
P A I N T I N G:
My paintings and graphics have twice been exhibited in a group show called The Black Dot Museum of Political Art at Northern in Olympia, WA., and at The Moat Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., The Flywheel Gallery in Northampton, MA., and the Knitting Factory in New York. My “Actually, I like crap” painting was selected for Perfect Lines, Saatchi Online’s Collection of the Week: Art that contains the perfect amount, size and shape of lines… lines of site… or composition. My paintings have been used by Franklin University (Columbus, OH) for a course on Global Cultures, The University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) in a course called Conflict Resolution, The University of Colorado (Boulder) for a course on Social Problems, and The Network for East-West Women-Poland (a United Nations NGO) in an article on Crimes Against Women.
B O O K C O V E R D E S I G N:
I have designed book covers for Arsenal Pulp Press, Harbour Publishing, Caitlin Press, Ronsdale Press, New Star, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, New Society Publishers, and Fernwood, etc. I also do the interior design of books, including The Essentials: 150 great BC Books & Authors (Ronsdale Press), Raise Shit (Fernwood), Tibetans In Exile (Ronsdale), Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Bluefield Books) and Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale).
L E C T U R E:
I present a lecture with Jean Smith called How Art & Music Can Change The World. It is a multi-media presentation that consists of a theatrical adaptation of The Listener, powerpoint images, and incorporates a performance by my guitar/voice duo Mecca Normal. We have presented our event at the University of British Columbia, Willamette University, Loyola Marymount University, Windermere Secondary School, Evergreen State College, California Institute of the Arts, Mount Holyoke College, San Francisco Public Library, North York Public Library, Olympia Timberland Library, Modern Times Bookstore, and Bluestocking Books.
F I L M S:
Anatomy of a Murder Painting is about the making of my painting The Lynching of Wesley Everest.
Hitler’s Sketch is based on a scene from The Listener.
Waterfront, an abstract film, with music by Wendy Atkinson, it screened at the Antimattter Underground Film Festival.
Change Is How You Act was shown at 25 Years of BC Animation Festival (Pacific Cinematheque).
The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism is based on my book of the same name.
P U B L I S H I N G:
In 1993, I started Get to the Point Editions to publish poetry, graphics, cartoons, and novels by community activists including Bud Osborn‘s Keys To Kingdoms and Jean Smith’s first novel I Can Hear Me Fine.